Thursday, 14 May 2009

Amirani Records

A label from Pavia (Italy) principally, but not exclusively devoted to improvisation in various contexts, Amirani is run by saxophonist Gianni Mimmo. They have released 15 items or so to date: here’s a poker of interesting ones for your ever-hungry auricular membranes.


Recorded at Chiesa Vallisa during 2007’s Bari Jazz Festival, this trio for piano (regular and prepared), violin and percussion is unquestionably one of the best releases of the label. The natural reverberation of the site influences the overall sound of the album (which is indeed among Amirani’s distinguishing features, not always in a positive sense), in this case not detrimentally for the music which remains exquisite all the way through. Lenoci’s able to maintain a flawless logic of equilibrium between the experimental side and a sort of idealist romanticism, his textural work the link connecting pianistic sturdiness and sheer narrative, Tippett meets Debussy in a sacred environment. Magliocchi maneuvers the percussive arsenal with expertise and restraint without particular inventions, discreetly supportive, ever careful not to enter illegal territories by force. Zingaro’s inventive generousness is a given in itself, yet he constantly adds new surprises with cute twists and asymmetric melodies, interacting with his partners in a state of persistent joie de vivre which counterbalances the general atmosphere of cultivated exploration of an ambience. A pleasurable listen for sure.


ReFLEXible (thus it should be spelled) are Joachim Devillé (trumpet and flugelhorn), Thomas Olbrechts (alto sax) and Stefan Prins (live electronics), Belgium-based artists whose work I meet for the first time. The field of action is freely improvised or instantly composed music, often in collaboration with entities active in other media (dance, performance, video and film). The record is extremely variable in terms of dynamics, ranging from almost soundless segments in which tiny crumbles of hardly audible activity are perceived to abrupt explosions where timbres become literally massacred by the processing operations, stabbing frequencies and coarse noises alternated in a hard-hearted consecutiveness with more biotic-sounding hysterics and mechanical cycles. In truth, this is not an album from which an explosive originality transpires, several of these solutions having already been heard in dozens of releases from labels such as Creative Sources (for a change). The convoluted meanders of some of these elucubrations are nonetheless fascinating, the fastidious attention to the infinitesimal detail palpable, the control on the final result seemingly complete. The actual instrumental voices of Devillé and Olbrechts denote a thorough knowledge of their machines. Basically, a good excursion which only lacks a pinch of impenitence, a dose of humour that would have translated into a much welcome higher degree of unpredictability.


An improbable title for a trio of soprano sax, cello/lo-fi electronics and percussion, especially useful to have a better grasp of the over-average technical ability characteristic of the majority of the artists featured in Amirani’s productions. This record touches on many aspects of non-exactly-radical improvisation, from melodically well-mannered to somberly philosophical, also passing through moments of witty vivaciousness (“Put To Sleep”, with its amusing voices of toy animals); but there’s a noticeable line of inventive consideration linking every gesture of the players, which typifies the album with a coherence not always found in other releases of this imprint’s discography. Mimmo doesn’t like trespassing confines too much, preferring to investigate jargons that sound developed enough yet somewhat proverbial, his timbre a perennial thing of even-too-polished beauty. Serrapiglio’s cello poetry is often the most striking feature of the disc, poignant arco lines perfectly integrated in the general sonority when not plainly indicating the way to pursue. Cusa is a sensitive percussionist who seems unappreciative of jamborees and elephant-amidst-crystal attitudes, appearing instead as a driver of otherwise scattered energies and, on the whole, a dutiful connector.


Subtitled “An Improvised Cycle”, this CD pairs distinct personalities trying to nurture a common ground for intercommunication, with partially satisfying results. Lamneck (clarinet, tárogató) is the artistic director of the NYU New Music And Dance Ensemble, Sanna (amplified guitar, objects) was among the founders of CRIM (Centro per la Ricerca sull’Improvvisazione Musicale) in Pisa, Italy. The instrumental dialogue is intentionally saw-toothed, often frenetic, with rare moments of reflection soon discarded in favour of a stripped kind of anxiety. Lamneck irradiates feelings of incorrigible discrepancy, frequently inundating the environment via itching outbursts showing a piercing sense of reed-fuelled punctiliousness. Sanna operates the guitar following the path of extended techniques that are by now pretty well known and recognizable, choosing selected spots of the instrument to granulate and deteriorate the conventional aspects of playing. On a side, the conversational character of the music is nearly hilarious, two separated neuroses in confrontational mode; on the other, there’s not a really high degree of advance or novelty in what Intentions presents, the title involuntarily symbolizing what indeed remains more or less unexpressed at the end, despite the presence of attention-grabbing episodes. Still, no tediousness whatsoever, which is a major plus.